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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Belt

ALBUM REVIEW: Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard - Skinwalker

Cardiff’s answer to Ty Segall impress on sophomore effort

Monstrous riffs, toe-tapping rhythms, analogical lyrics detailing mental strain and a splash of creepy theatre: Skinwalker is a confident and accomplished album.

The second LP from Cardiff-based, four-piece, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, following on from Welsh Music Prize-nominated debut album, Backhand Deals, is as good a rock album as they come.

Conceived at frontman, Tom Rees’s Rat Trap studio, where he works as a producer for the likes of Panic Shack and Do Nothing, the album takes inspiration from found-footage horror and the Navajo concept of the Skinwalker – a legendary malevolent shapeshifter.

This sinister influence rears its head a few times - the blink-and-you-miss-it ‘Intro’ with the command of ‘walk’, some creepy spoken words halfway through and most notably, on closer ‘Night of the Skinwalker’, which ends on a particularly dark note - but strip these moments have and you are left with an album which grooves as hard as it rocks.

The guitar work from Rees and Zac White is excellent, drummer Ethan Hurst keeps things interesting on the drums and Rees’s brother, Eddie, delivers bass to get you dancing at various points.

After ‘Intro’, the next four songs hit the sweet spot between indie and psych-rock to good effect. ‘National Rust’ swaggers like prime Franz Ferdinand with Rees’s lyrics fixated on decay, likely as a metaphor for the mental deterioration possible without due care given to support your mental health. Eddie’s bass provides the groove which makes you want to dance along to it.

Assembling skin: Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard (photo credit: Charlie Harris)

‘Chew’ and ‘Sugar Sandwich’ both call to mind Psychedelic Porn Crumpets with their frenetic guitar work and complex, constantly changing directions. ‘My Star Sign is a Basset Hound’ provides more virtuosic guitar playing and is more in the vein of a Jack White song mixed with a more classic rock sound.

‘The Drowning Bell’ marks a turning point in the record with the guitars toned down and some synth joining a slow drum beat for a reflective song stating the emptiness Rees feels seeing a former lover dancing with someone else. Here, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard sound like the Kaiser Chiefs at the end of Employment. This stylistic change-up then serves as the catalyst for a second half where the songs hit harder, are more psych-driven and draw you in deeper than the strong first several tracks. It’s here, too, that the band’s likeness to Ty Segall, present in most songs, is most embraced.

‘Leatherbound’ is a perfect slab of rock featuring group falsetto vocals in the style of Queen, ‘In My Egg’ delivers a familiar-sounding riff with Rees detailing his desire for home comforts after deciding to go on a solo trip to a cottage in the sticks and losing his mind and ‘Human Compression’ goes hard with Queens of the Stone Age-like riffs and lyrics about metal compression on a body acting as the analogy for Rees chronicling how he overloads himself with pressure.

‘Therapy’ features graphic metaphors for Rees’s chaotic mental state which sees him seeking therapy. Wrapping these battles of the mind in analogy and often funny lyrics both entertains, but also doesn’t take away from the seriousness of what is being examined, finding a balance which is enjoyable to engage with when a more direct approach may have been a harder listen.

The album culminates with ‘Night of the Skinwalker’ - a horror song with cinematic keys and a medium pace which then descends into speed guitar and a breathless climax, before the creepiest spoken word piece of the bunch, leaving an unsettling aftertaste.

Multi-faceted, but at its heart, a rock album which grabs you by the throat and drags you into its world of riffs, tight beats and dancefloor-appropriate bass, Skinwalker is a great second statement from Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard and surely sufficient for further awards nominations in 2024 as a minimum.

Rating: 8.5/10

Skinwalker is out on Friday (12 April) via Communion Records


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